Reader’s Note: If you’re coming over from Crazy Mom Quilts, I want to give you a head’s up that this post talks about loss, specifically stillbirth. If you are triggered by pregnancy loss, neonatal loss, or child loss, I will completely understand if you skip today’s post.
We were blessed to deliver Patrick in a hospital that handles loss well. That is not a statement I would have ever imagined saying or being thankful for, but it’s the truth. They made a horrible situation much more manageable, and I am grateful every day for that.
They day we found out that Patrick had died, we had to make many decisions fairly quickly. By the time we were admitted to be induced later that day, Lloyd and I were both suffering from severe decision fatigue. Fairly early on after being admitted, they started asking us if we knew what we’d want to do with Patrick’s body. I honestly couldn’t even contemplate this, and we kept asking if they had to know right then. They’d say no, and I’d push it from my mind until they asked the next time. They were kind, and they didn’t pressure us in any way, but we didn’t even know where to begin to think about this decision.
After Patrick was delivered the next day, we really had to make a decision. They brought us a list of funeral homes we could call. Eventually they had to send a social worker to help us talk about it. To say I couldn’t deal with this issue is a major understatement. Once the social worker was there and got us started, Lloyd, Mom, and I were able to discuss our options. Actually, the social worker ended up just sitting back and listening to us go back and forth. We really had no idea what the right thing to do was. As we started talking about it, though, I said that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a plot somewhere. I didn’t want to have to add to my Mama guilt by not visiting as often as I’d like or thought I should.
Quite honestly, I knew there’d be Mama guilt no matter which option we chose, so we had to just pick. I suggested that we create a shadow box or a space at home, so we decided to honor Patrick in that way. We released the body to the hospital.
Every once in a while, when I read other Mama’s stories about having their baby’s ashes or a plot at a cemetery, I have a ping of sadness that I didn’t chose that route. But, I know we made the right decision. We finally put together his shadow box on Monday, his due date, and it cemented that we made the right decision for us. I have let the Mama guilt go on this one.
We decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to spend Patrick’s due date at home. We’d organized #PostItsForPatrick, and we wanted to be home to watch those post. We also thought it would be the perfect time to put together the shadow box. On Saturday we took a trip to Michael’s and The Container Store to get the supplies we imagined that we’d need. We didn’t end up using everything we bought, but we didn’t end up needing anything else either.
Sunday night, I pulled together all of the objects we wanted to put in the shadow box. I wasn’t going to put any sort of announcement in it, but as I looked as what we had, I really felt like we at least needed his name and birthdate there. So, I quickly designed one to embroider. I had a mild panic attack while I was looking for the leftover Special Delivery fabric from Patrick’s quilt. Eventually, I found it. I had planned to back the pillow in that fabric, but the pieces weren’t big enough. Instead, I cut out and appliquéd a little giraffe and zebra to the front of the pillow. I liked that little addition; it gave the pillow even more connection and meaning. I stitched the pillow on Kona Snow, using Aurifil 12-weight thread (colors 5006 & 6729). I also embroidered some orange beads, because I love beads. I think they add something a little sophisticated and extra to embroidery projects. I backed the pillow in Sketch from Timeless Treasures, which you can’t even really see, but it coordinated nicely with the blue thread. I couldn’t decide if I wanted it to just be a little wall-hanging or a pillow. Lloyd really wanted it to be a pillow, so I stuffed it and whipstitched it closed.
Monday morning, we started pulling everything together to lay it out. We ended up laying it out on my cutting table first (which worked fabulously, since it had the cutting mat with inch-increments blocked out), then propped the shadow box up to tack everything in. Parts of that process were more challenging than I expected, but I’m stubborn, so it worked out.
We got it all done, and, well, I hated it. Grief, guilt, perfectionism, and hunger all attacked at once. My wise husband suggested that we take a break and go get some lunch, then we could futz with it when we got back. With some food in my belly, I was able to approach the subject slightly more sanely and decided to just leave it as we had originally planned. I accepted that I wasn’t ever going to be 100% thrilled with the shadow box because I wasn’t happy with the situation in general. That was okay; it had to be.
So, let me give you a brief tour of the objects in the shadow box.
Along the top, there are a few items that were in the memory box from the hospital. The “baby” bracelet and heart pillow were used in the little “photo shoot” our nurse did with Patrick. The hat was actually too big, but we wanted to include it anyways.
Hanging from the clothesline are his handprints and footprints, which just amazed me from the moment I saw them the first time. I’m so grateful for those. They are absolutely precious to me. On each side of the pillow are his arm and wrist bands. These were more ceremonial than actual bracelets, but I still appreciate the gesture. Hanging in the middle, above the pillow, is a St. Patrick’s metal that we got at a gift shop around Mother’s Day. All the way to the right is a little heart charm that was also in the box from the hospital. It reads, “You will always be in my heart.”
On the bottom right we built a little stand of items. On the bottom is the Lego family Lloyd created after our first bad ultrasound. That weekend we went to the mall. We were clinging to hope that the doctors were wrong. Lloyd built this little Lego family, and I got an angel Pandora charm (that I still wear).
Until we put together the shadow box, the Lego family sat next to our TV, and it actually cracks me up a bit. I love popsicles in general, but when I was pregnant I couldn’t get enough of them. Most days I probably had four or five. Love that Lego had that as an option and that Lloyd chose it as my object. Oh, and my shirt is orange. Lloyd is holding a coffee mug, which is quite appropriate. He had a hard time creating a little person, not knowing if it was a boy or a girl. A space shirt was the closest he could get to neutral. I picked out the little knitted cap.
Above the Lego family is a little box with two teddy bears. These were used in Patrick’s “photo shoot” and were in his memory box. On the top of the little tower is the Willow Tree figure we bought at the same time as we got the St. Patrick’s metal.
Next to the little stand of items is the bunting they wrapped Patrick in. Again, I am so thankful for hospital having these things. I had almost brought Patrick’s quilt, but I knew it would be too big and just couldn’t even contemplate what I would need. But the hospital was prepared. And bless the volunteers who make these; I hope they know what a gift they are to families.
At the bottom right is our favorite family photo from the time we spent with Patrick. Above the photos is his Batman socks. These also made an appearance in my Still Standing post on Mother’s Day. They were one of the few items we’d actually bought for the baby. We didn’t want to buy a lot of clothes and things, because we weren’t going to find out if we were having a boy or girl. We figured that either could wear Batman socks, though. The package came with two pairs. One went in the shadow box; the other we’re keeping for our hopeful Rainbow Baby (“after every storm, there is a rainbow”) to wear home from the hospital.
Once I decided (yes, me. Lloyd was pleased with it. I’m the control freak, perfectionistic, guilt-ridden Mama) it was finished, Lloyd set out to find a stud in the wall (not so easy in our apartment…don’t get Lloyd started) in our bedroom. For all of the angst I had about calling it finished, once it was hung on the wall I decided it was perfect. I really love that we have this space created in our home so Patrick will always be with us and a visible member of our family.
(And doesn’t everyone hang their scarves on a sconce in their bedroom? Don’t worry…it’s a battery-operated candle.)